ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Cebu evinces more realistic appreciation of aspirations of ASEAN parliamentarians and civil society although its failure to take a more robust stand against Myanmar taking over the ASEAN 2006 Chair without meaningful democratization a disappointment and setback
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Tuesday): The ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Cebu evinces more realistic appreciation of aspirations of ASEAN parliamentarians and civil society although its failure to take a more robust stand against Myanmar taking over the ASEAN 2006 Chair without meaningful democratization is nonetheless a disappointment and setback.
As compared to the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Jakarta in March, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat did not retreat from grappling with the nettlesome issue of Myanmar’s takeover of the ASEAN Chair in 2006 and the abysmal failure of the Myanmar military junta to comply with the most minimal benchmarcks of responsible ASEAN membership, particularly its catalogue of broken promises to ASEAN and the international community for over a decade about human rights, democratization and national reconciliation in Myanmar.
Myanmar’s ruling junta has said that it would not bow to opposition from the United States and the European Union over its intention to take its turn as ASEAN Chair in 2006. What Myanmar is facing is not just opposition from the United States and the European Union, but opposition from ASEAN parliamentarians and civil society, particularly in the original five ASEAN founding nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and Singapore.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Syed Hamid Albar yesterday indicated that a formal decision on the ASEAN Chair 2006 could be made at the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) in Vientiane, Laos in July.
ASEAN Parliamentarians and civil society must mobilize to speak out loud and clear in that next three months, including the passage of parliamentary motions, that Myanmar’s assumption of the ASEAN Chair 2006, which will be a millstone around the neck of ASEAN and an international liability to ASEAN collectively and the member nations individually, is completely unacceptable and to prove wrong the complacent and outrageous claim by the leader of the Myanmese military junta, Senior General Than Shwe at the 60th anniversary of Myanmar Armed Forces Day last month that his government’s “democratic reforms … have gained acceptance not only among neighbours and nations” but also internationally, “despite all sorts of restrictions, sanctions and onslaughts”.
ASEAN Parliamentarians and civil society must send out the unmistakable message that whether Myanmar is to take over the ASEAN Chair 2006 must hinge on Myanmar’s preparedness to be a responsible member of ASEAN and the international community of nations by immediately releasing Burmese Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners as well as an acceptable, meaningful and viable democratization and national reconciliation process in Myanmar.
Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman